Sunday 15 March 2009

"The Forecast"

Dad leaves the weather channel on while he ferries
garbage cans to the yard’s edge,
the dead leaves cracking under his feet.
Though September, a Tornado Warning could
beep across the screen. Or a Severe Thunderstorm.
Get the cats inside. I can prepare,
crank the windows, huddle in the basement.
Preparing or stalling, Dad cycles
thirty miles a day; he alters the route
from one sequence of prairie roads to another.
Only change ceases to change.
He phones to give me an update.
I’m in Los Angeles, Dad. What weather?
He explains the specifics:
dew point, wind velocity, cloudcover.
When I move, he’ll delight in new territory to monitor.
He may not be able to control
the sky, but he knows the forecast.
His birthday is Monday.
I sense tornado weather
in California—ridiculous,
even the season is wrong—
yet the sky darkens, the chimes clatter-sing.
When I was six, a tornado sought
our train, I resisted hiding
in the ditch, I stood on the bank
and watched the black
a hundred yards off till Dad yanked
me down. On the birthday card I write,
Wish I could be there. Illinois:
I see a tornado approach, oh
far off, far off. Dad walks up beside me,
chatting the facts: the distance, its speed.
I grab his hand,
I fix him to the earth, glaring forward
He’s mine he’s mine he’s mine
while Dad states the shortened distance,
the heightened speed, how
black, how black it is.
written September 1994


  1. Oh this is beautiful, I so enjoyed readng it.

    Very sorry to hear about your dad, sending you warm thoughts..

  2. Anonymous9:39 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about your father. Your poem brings something essential about him to life, even to someone who didn't know him at all.

    Thinking of you,

    Sue Proffitt

  3. Tornadoes used to terrify me when I was a kid. In order to help me understand them, my dad brought home a bunch of charts one day explaining how they happened. I thought about that while reading this poem. I wonder if it's a rite of passage for Midwestern kids: Dad explains toranadoes.

  4. his life, and then
    her life gone ...
    distant fireworks

    funeral bouquet --
    her monochrome photo
    amid pink and purple

    funeral over-
    traces of tears wiped
    from my spectacles

    sunflowers wither
    leaving seeds
    embedded with hope